There is something inside all of us that wants to spot a wild animal when we’re out in nature. It makes us feel special — like we’re getting a peek inside a world we’re not normally invited into. That awe can sometimes shadow the reality that these wild animals come with an adjective that essentially means, ‘you don’t share the same set of morals.”
While the United States has an incredibly diverse and magnificent array of wildlife, some of them are best ogled at a distance. A great distance. Counting down to the most deadly animal in America, we bet you’ll never guess who sits at number one.
40. Seal: Most people wouldn’t expect these adorable blubs to make the deadliest animal list, but when it comes to protecting their pups, mama seals ain’t playing cute. Word to the wise, don’t ever mess with mama (seals).
39. Wild Boar: While attacks from these rogue hogs are extremely rare, they make up for it with unmatched ferocity. There has only been four wild boar fatalities in the last few decades, but let’s just say, they cut deep.
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38. Gila Monster: If you have monster in your name, you know you’re packing a little danger. For this colorful lizard that danger comes in the form of a brutal venom notorious for causing “excruciating pain.” Thankfully, gila monsters are also very sluggish, so they probably won’t chase you.
37. Coyote: People are usually familiar with these canines from fables but they also have an equal, if not greater, presence in nature. In addition to making seemingly suicidal dives in front of cars, rabid coyote attacks are also something to look out for.
36. Alligator: Look, lets just call a Jurassic predator a Jurassic predator. Alligators have a hyper powerful maw and typically lurk in the swamplands of Florida (no surprise). If you do happen to find yourself in between its beastly jaws, experts recommend going for their eyes and snout.
35. Brown Recluse Spider: Remember that popular children’s song: The itsy bitsy spider hid under the water spout, climbed out to bite you and let his poison out. Then came necrosis and ate up all your skin, then the brown recluse spider decided to do it again.
34. Stingray: Two words: Steve Irwin. Anything that can bring down the saint of the animal kingdom is something to be reckoned with. Fortunately, if hit in the arms or legs, the ray’s sting isn’t enough to be fatal, but as we learned the hard way, a blow to the heart will end you.
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33. Black Bear: Smokey the Bear may be here to warn about fire safety, but every other black bear is here to warn you to keep your distance. Mama bears are especially aggressive, so resist the urge to pet the fluffy black bear cub on your next hike.
32. Crocodile: Where could a giant formidable reptile that can swim and walk on land possibly reside? Florida. Yep, next time you’re considering cooling your heels, don’t do it in an alligator/crocodile/who-knows-what-else Florida swamp. Just don’t.
31. Portuguese Man O’ War: If you put man o’ war after anything, it’s automatically going to be suspected of danger. Their sting usually isn’t enough to be deadly, but because of the shock of the attack, many people stung end up drowning. They also live in Florida.
30. Cougar: Also known as mountain lions, these cats are fairly rare but can be vicious when encountered in the wild especially if food has been scarce. Cougars also occasionally take the form of women over 45 with confident flirtation — both are powerful.
29. Arizona Bark Scorpion: This creepy crawly is actually not deadly. We include it here because movies have given him a bad rep and we want to clear the air. Yes, scorpions sting. and yes, it hurts A LOT. But look on the bright side: you’ll definitely live.
28. Wolf: As pack hunters, running into a wolf means you’re really running into a PACK of wolves. Boasting claws to kill and fangs that can take down a bison, a wolf pack sighting is definitely cause for alarm. Thankfully, wolves are shy of humans and rarely attack.
27. Cone Snail: Don’t be fooled by those mesmerizing shells, these sneaky little sea slugs have a sting that causes paralysis. Even if their sting isn’t enough to get you, the inability to move can lead to drowning. And nobody wants to be undone by a snail.
26. Tiger Shark: In case Jaws and Shark Week hasn’t ruined swimming for you, let’s get our sharks straight. Tiger sharks are scary because, one, they’re sharks and, two, they’re likely to bite. However, they don’t like the taste of humans, so they probably won’t go in for seconds.
25. Polar Bear: We all thought the commercials were cute, but polar bears don’t drink Coke. Polar bears eat flesh. They can weigh up to one ton and have a strong taste for anything meat. If you happen to be on an Arctic stroll, steer clear of these fellows.
24. Grizzly Bear: These bears are probably a little closer to home — for most of us anyway. Grizzly bears are the barbarians of the forest. There is literally never a good time to spot one of these guys in nature. So, if you do, RUN.
23. Bison: So here’s the funny thing about bison, these massive beasts won’t bite you, because they’re vegetarian. However, they can gore you with their horns, and they’re also commonly known to just trample people. But how can you hate a face like that?
22. Moose: Similarly to bison, moose will take you down by charging and trampling you. This is most likely to occur during their rutting season, which is moose talk for mating season. Believe us, you don’t want to take a Moose’s mojo.
21. Centipede: As if it wasn’t bad enough that these things can make your skin crawl from across the room, they have to go ahead and be filled with kidney-failing, heart-attacking venom. Luckily, while they may have 20x the legs that we do, we can probably still outrun them.
20. Great White Shark: Look, if you see a great white shark and don’t panic then maybe this will help. These sharks attack anything that looks like a seal. So the best advice experts give on shark safety is to avoid looking like a seal while swimming…
19. Black Widow Spider: Here’s the good news, black widows don’t typically inject enough poison when they bite to cause death. Nonetheless, their venom is extremely toxic and, if bitten, you should always stay calm and seek medical attention.
18. Bull Shark: These guys earn their name by hunting inland and holding the record for “most unprovoked shark attacks.” With several rows of teeth and 290 pounds to feed, bull sharks don’t make the best swimming partners. They live off the coast of Florida.
17. Diamondback Rattlesnake: There are so many snakes in the world, we just have to come to terms with that. But when a diamondback rattlesnake bites you, it envenomates you with hemotoxins that will slowly begin to destroy your red blood cells. It rattles too, because it’s evil.
16. Mosquito: They’ve always been annoying, but now they’ve just leveled up into deadly. Mosquitos themselves are mostly harmless but they can carry transmittable diseases — enough to cause epidemics. In total, the number of mosquito-related deaths outnumbers those of car accidents each year.
15. Rat: When they’re not scurrying out of a sewer or abruptly zipping across your apartment, rats can actually look kind of cute. Do not be deceived. Rats are practically furry spaceships for disease. Never forget, we have them to thank for the Bubonic Plague and nightmares.
14. Cottonmouth: This snake doesn’t rattle, which is considerate, but it’s also more dangerous because you can’t hear it coming. The cottonmouth is more prone to attack humans with a venom even more potent than the rattlesnake. Also, Florida guy.
13. Brain-Eating Amoeba: This amoeba has one guarantee — certain death. In warm, infested waters, the amoeba will swim up your nose to find your brainstem and slowly eat its way through your brain while multiplying. The singular reason this isn’t number one is because of the frequency of cases.
12. Raccoon: These critters eat garbage for a living, but the thing that really makes them deadly is the diseases they carry. Like, rabies. Rabies does a lot of bad things like make you foam at the mouth and turn into a zombie. Don’t get attacked by a raccoon. Don’t get rabies.
11. Coral Snake: You may have heard the little survival jingle, “red touches yellow you’re a dead fellow” — a cute reminder to beware of coral snakes. They have a perilous venom that you don’t need to be bitten twice to remember. Because there never is a second chance…
10. Fire Ant: No matter who you are, getting bitten by a fire ant really hurts, but the fire ants can actually become deadly to anyone who has an allergy. Unfortunately, some people don’t even know they’re allergic until they are bitten.
9. Harvester Ant: Okay, one sting from a harvester ant won’t kill you. However, they are notorious for stinging multiple times and they release a pheromone when they bite that attracts other harvester ants to come and join the party. You can cry if you want to.
8. Horse: Horses kill 20 people every year. They are known to have bad temperaments and can kick people to death. Next time you fantasize about riding off into the sunset on horseback, just keep this in mind.
7. Pig: Ranking more dangerous than three different kinds of shark, is the pig. This isn’t because pigs will chomp our limbs off, it’s because pigs wander into the road and cause car accidents. Weighing up to 790 pounds, a single pig can stop almost any vehicle.
6. Deer: Just like the pigs, deer only take us down when we take them down. Because they are naturally flighty, deer tend to bolt out in front of on-coming traffic and then just freeze ‘like a deer in the headlights’ causing about 52 deaths per year.
5. Honey Bee: We need honey bees, but honey bees don’t need us. They’re not naturally aggressive towards humans, but if they feel threatened they will definitely go ahead and throw down a sting. If you’re allergic, this can be lethal.
4. Paper Wasp: It can be hard to tell the difference between bees and wasps, but one easy way to discriminate between them is that bees can usually only sting once and wasps can keep stinging you as many times as they want. Just a fun fact.
3. Africanized Bee: This guy’s nickname is the “killer bee.” It’s estimated that they have to sting you 10x per pound of body weight to kill you. That sounds like a lot, but when a whole nest comes after you… it becomes a numbers game, and the odds aren’t in your favor.
2. Dog: We like to think of them as our best friends, but dogs can also be extremely territorial and rabid. There are certain breeds that are more prone to violence, the pit bull accounting for 70% of dog-related deaths. Understanding and responsible pet-ownership is the best protector against this.
1. Cow: In addition to producing global-warming amounts of methane, cows are also dangerous for causing car accidents and being aggressive. Mother cows are grizzly-bear level protective of their young and are known to charge and maim farmers. With all three of her lethal powers combined, the cow comes in at number one.